NY Times: Rolling Out the Welcome Mat for Travelers With Autism

A growing number of theme parks, hotels and special attractions are introducing autism training and sensory guides.

 
 

The Thibault family at Rio Secreto, Playa Del Carmen, Mexico, 2017. From left, Chris, Sebastian, Tristan, Emerson and Nicole Thibault.Credit via Thibault family

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When Nicole Thibault had her first child, she imagined traveling everywhere with him. But by age 2, he would become upset by simply passing a restaurant that smelled of garlic. Waiting in line elicited tantrums and crowded places overwhelmed him. Autism was diagnosed within the year.

“I thought maybe our family dream of travel wouldn’t happen,” said Ms. Thibault, 46, of Fairport, N.Y., who now has three children. But she spent the next three years learning to prepare her son for travel by watching videos of future destinations and attractions so that he would know what to expect. The preparation helped enable him, now 14 and well-traveled, to enjoy adventures as challenging as exploring caves in Mexico. It also encouraged Ms. Thibault to launch a business, Magical Storybook Travels, planning travel for families with special needs.

Now the travel industry is catching up to the family. A growing number of theme parks, special attractions and hotels are introducing autism training and sensory guides that highlight triggers, providing resources in times of need and assuring families they won’t be judged.

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Story Land Becomes the First Amusement Park to Earn the Certified Autism Center Designation in New Hampshire

Story Land amusement park, nestled in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, recently earned the Certified Autism Center (CAC) designation from the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES).  This certification demonstrates Story Land’s dedication to provide a space where guests will be supported by staff who have completed training to accommodate needs specific to those with autism and other sensory disorders.

Beyond the 20 beloved rides, Story Land also offers unique dining experiences, shows, story time with Mother Goose in her manor, photo opportunities with storybook characters, carnival style games, & Los Bravos Silver Mine for emerging explorers. Eternally geared toward pleasing younger guests, Story Land is the perfect setting for little ones to create their very own magical tale.

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OdySea Aquarium is the First Attraction in Arizona to become a Certified Autism Center

OdySea AquariumThe International Board of Credentialing and Continued Education Standards (IBCCES) announced today that OdySea Aquarium is the first attraction – and aquarium – in Arizona to become a Certified Autism Center (CAC). The CAC designation, granted by IBCCES, means that visitors and families with children who have autism and other sensory differences can enjoy the best possible experience that caters to their needs. To achieve today’s CAC accreditation, OdySea Aquarium completed the critical training required by IBCCES to recognize the needs of guests on the spectrum and provide necessary facility options for this demographic.

“We know families with children on the autism spectrum often find it challenging when choosing an attraction to visit,” said Greg Charbeneau, Vice President and General Manager at OdySea Aquarium. “Our mission to connect visitors with the wonders of the ocean has no exclusions. We have always made the necessary accommodations to make all guests as comfortable as possible – on every visit.  This certification was a natural step for us as we continue to provide safe, engaging and memorable experiences for all of our guests.”

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Scuba Diving and Autism Part 2: How Autism Certification Helps

Children with autism are often drawn to water, but without proper training, water can also be a real danger to them. PADI instructors partnering with IBCCES can be an important part of helping these children remain safe and become more comfortable around water.

Drowning is a leading cause of death for children with autism. Much of this is preventable by teaching children who are naturally drawn to water better skills for how to swim and manage themselves when they are in the water.

Many families want to help their child develop new skills and abilities, but they have a hard time finding places to do it.

How Autism Certification Can Make a Difference

“Often the road block isn’t the children, it’s finding programs, instructors, and businesses that are willing to adapt their ‘normal’ operations to accommodate and meet the needs for special needs children.” -Chris O’Shea, parent of a child on the autism spectrum (see Chris O’Shea’s original blog post). Continue Reading →

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How Individuals With Autism Can Provide Solutions for Companies

As businesses grow and evolve they are beginning to understand the importance of hiring employees who think differently and approach situations in ways one might consider out-of-the-box.

These neurodiverse individuals include people on the autism spectrum who possess skills that are in high demand, but are often hard to come by. It’s time we start paying attention to the undeniable value neurodiverse people provide to companies all over the world.

What is Neurodiversity?

The term neurodiversity is a concept that “considers the range of differences in human brain function and behavioral traits as normal variations.” Many times, this term refers to autism, but it can also include other cognitive disorders and disabilities.   Continue Reading →

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Dive Georgia Becomes A Certified Autism Center

First Dive Shop in Georgia to Receive Certified Autism Center Designation

Dive Georgia a full-service scuba, snorkel and travel center has completed the process of becoming a Certified Autism Center (CAC), which is a designation that demonstrates the organization’s commitment to ensuring guests and families with children who have autism have the best possible experience when visiting their center or taking a dive class. They are the first dive shop in Georgia to earn this designation.

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First Responders and Autism Training in the News

In West Liberty, Iowa, first responders recently completed autism training, stemming from an incident where a child with autism escaped from his home and went to the public pool.

As a nonverbal child, he has trouble communicating with people and they can have trouble communicating with him. This means that being around water can be especially dangerous.

Watch the News Report

This article, and many others, demonstrate the need for nationwide autism training for first responders. IBCCES offers online training specifically designed for law enforcement and first responders that has already been implemented in numerous departments across the US.

Learn More About First Responder Autism Training

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Gotham Divers Becomes A Certified Autism Center

First Dive Shop in New York to Receive the Certified Autism Center Designation

Gotham Divers, a local New York City dive shop dedicated to offering the highest quality training at all levels of SCUBA has completed the process of becoming a Certified Autism Center (CAC). The CAC a designation demonstrates the dive shop’s commitment to ensuring individuals and families with children who have autism have the best possible experience when taking one of their dive courses. They are the first dive shop in New York to earn this designation.

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Splish Splash Water Park Receives Certified Autism Center Designation

First Water Park in New York to Receive Such Designation

Splish Splash Water Park, in conjunction with the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES), announced the completion of a staff-wide autism sensitivity and awareness training. The completion designates Splish Splash as a Certified Autism Center (CAC) as distinguished by IBCCES, making it the first water park in New York to receive such a distinction.

Working closely with IBCCES, the staff at Splish Splash will be continually trained to assist guests with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and their families to help ensure a positive experience during their visit. Splish Splash will also undergo an onsite review by IBCCES and will incorporate sensory guides for each ride so guests with sensory needs can better plan their day and make informed choices best suited to their individual needs. Guests can also visit Splish Splash Guest Services for any additional accommodations they might need.

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Neurodiversity Training for the Workplace: How can it Help Your Company?

As autism spectrum disorder (ASD) becomes increasingly prevalent, it is important for companies to understand how people with autism can be a true asset to an organization. Hiring and creating a functional workspace for individuals with diverse talents and needs can help organizations reach their business goals, create a healthier and more inclusive workplace, and provides more opportunity for individuals with ASD to contribute their talents and skills in a meaningful way.

Paul Shattuck, an associate professor of health management and policy at Drexel University’s Dornsife School of Public Health and director of the Life Course Outcomes Research Program at the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute, recalls when autism was almost unheard of:

“It’s big news. Twenty years ago when I started in this field, autism was a condition that few people had heard of unless they had seen the movie Rain Man. But since the diagnostic criteria for autism have changed, we now include more people under that umbrella term than ever before.” -Paul Shattuck

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